Law enforcement agencies have recognized the value of pre-employment psychological screening of prospective applicants for many years. Since the late 1970’s, state law in California has required that all applicants for sworn law enforcement positions undergo a thorough pre-employment psychological evaluation prior to being hired with any California law enforcement agency. For many years, probation departments, fire departments and social service agencies have also recognized the value of pre-employment psychological evaluations for their candidates.
Psychological evaluations are conducted for the purpose of screening for psychological or emotional difficulties which would interfere with the successful performance of a given job title. However, significant mental health problems are rarely diagnosed during a pre-employment psychological evaluation as most candidates with significant problems have been eliminated as candidates prior to reaching the psychological evaluation phase of the hiring process.
In addition to screening for psychological and emotional difficulties, pre-employment psychological evaluations are designed to assess the fit between the applicant’s psychological profile and the profile desired by the individual agency. For example, large city police departments are generally looking for a different type of applicant than are small, suburban law enforcement agencies; fire departments are looking for a different psychological profile than are police departments. However, there are common characteristics which are generally desired by all police, fire, probation, and social service agencies. These qualities include: maturity; good communication skills; good social skills; character; integrity; the ability to follow orders; and a strong work ethic.
The California Commission on Police Officer Standards (POST) has established guidelines with regard to the minimum standards expected of successful law enforcement candidates. Information on these guidelines can be found at: www.POST.CA.GOV